The Pandemic and the Person of Christ

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 5 of 5: Five Barley Loaves- Community and Social Distancing
Scriptures: Jesus’ I AM statements from the Gospel of John
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/29/2020 via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of me leading worship from my home office, including the message which starts around the 20-minute mark.

This message concludes our sermon series entitled Bread. It was supposed to be on a passage from John 6 where Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life.”

I’ll be honest with you, I went to John 6 and knew I didn’t want to dive deeply into that one passage. It’s complicated. It’s full of misunderstanding and arguments and Jesus trying to explain his real presence in Holy Communion.

It’s important, but it felt really heavy given the pandemic and quarantine. I didn’t want to be in my head and I didn’t want to preach on an argument. I don’t need that right now and suspect you don’t either.

What I need right now is Jesus.

This passage from John 6 led me to all the other I AM statements from Jesus in the Gospel of John. That’s what I needed. I needed to be reminded of who Jesus is- I AM, I Am, I AM…

I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 38)
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…. I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”

Jesus is the Bread of Life, come down from heaven like manna in the wilderness. Jesus came that we might have a journey of faith with him to the promised land, with him home to heaven.

Jesus provides spiritual food and drink for the journey of faith and is that food and drink himself. Food/bread leads us to the next I AM statement…

I AM the Vine (John 15:1-2, 5)
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. … I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing.

Hunger needs food/Bread and thirst needs something to drink, Vine/wine.

Every branch that bears no fruit is removed- what keeps us stuck, what hinders us. Jesus is unburdening us for the journey.

Every branch that bears fruit is pruned to bear more fruit. We are tended so the good will grow and flourish.

Jesus gives food for the journey, drink for the journey, unburdens us for the journey, brings good fruit along the journey, and makes the journey itself possible. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. We need Jesus.

I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus makes it possible for us to be on the journey and Jesus is the journey. Jesus is the Way. We can trust Jesus’ way because it is true. We can trust Jesus’ way because it is life.

We need life right now. We can stay on the path, stay on the journey in this time of pandemic by trusting and following Jesus.

I AM the Gate (John 10:7-9)
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

Jesus is not only the Way, the journey itself, but he is also the Gate. Anyone can enter the journey of faith, the journey of salvation, through Jesus. All this talk of sheep, listening, and pasture (more food for the journey!) leads us to…

I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14-15)
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

The Shepherd knows us, calls us, fights for us, defends us, tends us, provides for us, leads us like a shepherd leading his flock, and lays down his life for us. Jesus lays down his life as the Way so we may cross into a life with God forever.

Jesus laying down his life is the cross. Jesus laying down his life is his death and being laid in a tomb. And yet, Jesus has the power to take up his life again and to take us up with him. (John 10:17-18)

Jesus is the Bread and Vine- food and drink for the journey
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
Jesus is the Gate- how we enter the journey
Jesus is the Shepherd, leading us on the journey, we can hear and follow

Jesus is the Way, the Shepherd we follow, and the Light for every step of the journey.

I AM the Light of the World (John 8:12, 14a)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life…. I know where I have come from and where I am going”

Light of the World… Whoever follows… The journey of faith is for all people. Anyone, everyone can join.

Light of Life… even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:12)

If you’re feeling things are dark right now, Jesus remains the Light. We can trust that light is there even when we can’t sense it. I pray that light would breakthrough for you right now.

I know where I have come from and where I am going. We can trust Jesus’ truth and experience to lead us because he knows where he’s going. He knows how to get us home.

We can trust this because of the last I Am statement. In this passage, Jesus is talking to Martha, the sister of Lazarus. She’s heartbroken over her brother’s death. It seems all is lost.

I AM the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-27)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Imagine Jesus asking us that right now. Do you believe this?

Do you believe I am the Bread of Life?
That I am the Vine and you are the branches?
Do you believe I am the Way, the Truth and the Life?
Do you believe I am the Gate?
Do you believe I am the Good Shepherd?
Do you believe I am the Light of the World?
Do you believe I am the Resurrection and the Life?

In this day, in the midst of the pandemic, in the midst of the physical separation, in the midst of wondering about the future, in the midst of the loss and the loneliness, I say, “I believe.”

Martha said it before Lazarus was raised from the dead. She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Before everything is made right, I’m going to stand with my sister Martha and say, “Yes, I believe.” I pray you will believe, too.

If you’re doubting these promises are for you, do not doubt. They’re offered to you as grace and goodness. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what you’ve done. These promises are for you and for all, so I pray you will say yes and believe.

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The Pandemic and the Person of Christ © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Enough, a Thanksgiving Message (Psalm 23)

Sermon Series enough 1110 x 624

Enough, a Thanksgiving Message
Scripture: Psalm 23
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 11/24/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

When you think of the word “enough” what comes to mind?
a. Enough = Too Much. Something that’s bothering you that must stop.
Pat – “I’ve had enough of this moving”
Jo – “It’s what I tell my three dogs when they bark nonstop.”
Song: No More Tears/Enough is Enough (Barbara Streisand, Donna Summer)

b. Enough = Too Little. Enough always tied to the word never.
Fanci – “Enough is a word that … has a connotation of power, because [the one] who has enough holds power over [the one] who does not.”
Scarcity. What you need is unattainable.

Song: Never Enough from The Greatest Showman
All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough, never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough, never be enough

Psalm 23:1
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.    

It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t want things, long for things, work for things. It means I shall not “be in want.”

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. The Lord is my shepherd, there is enough.

c. Enough = Peace, Satisfied, Contentment. I have enough. There is enough.

Where do you find yourself with the word “enough.”

As I read the psalm, listen to all the things God provides

Psalm 23 (NRSV)
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil; for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Notice all the things God provides
Verses 2-3, rest for body and soul
Verse 3, guidance and wisdom beyond knowledge
Verse 4, companionship. God’s abiding. We are never alone, never forsaken.
Verse 4, God protects
Verse 5, daily needs, every good gift
Verse 5, healing, blessing, and calling
Verse 6, goodness and mercy, now and forever

I Have Enough = Contentment
Trust there is enough- It’s a key that opens everything. This is a very different narrative than the narrative of our consumeristic culture.
enough time
enough love
enough money
enough talent
enough food
enough opportunity
enough grace

Richard Rohr Quote
Once you move your identity to that level of deep inner contentment, you will realize you are drawing upon a Life that is much larger than your own and from a deeper abundance. Once you learn this, why would you ever again settle for scarcity in your life? “I’m not enough! This is not enough! I do not have enough!” I am afraid this is the way culture trains you to think. It is a kind of learned helplessness. The Gospel message is just the opposite— inherent power.

I can trust I have enough (contentment) because I trust that God is enough (commitment). Everything the world tells you will be enough, that will make it so you are enough and have enough, will fall short of God and will fall short of your need.

The Lord is my Shepherd- I have made that commitment. You are the Shepherd and I am the sheep. I’m part of Your flock. Read Psalm 23 again, counting and emphasizing the references to God.

When we read Psalm 23 in this way, we hear the Psalmist’s praise of God and commitment to God. God, I trust you. I have enough because you are enough.

This leads down to our core identity. I am enough. I am enough that the Lord is my Shepherd. I can’t earn it. I can’t buy it. I am enough because God delights in me and says I am enough. Our identity and value and access to grace itself all a gift. This dispels the scarcity that there isn’t enough and I’m not enough.

Read Psalm 23 again, counting the personal references, all the things that are true about you. God is enough and I am enough. Both these truths are equally proclaimed in this incredible Psalm.

This Thanksgiving, remember this.
I have enough = I am Content
God is enough = I can make a Commitment to God because I trust God
I am enough = God says so and it’s now my Core Identity

When we remember this we are re-membered. All the brokenness comes together.

Ann Voskamp on Facebook
All the brokenness in the world begins with the act of forgetting — forgetting that God is enough, forgetting that what He gives is good enough, forgetting that there is always more than enough to give thanks for.

Though we forget, though we’re prone to chronic soul amnesia, You never forget us, You never abandon us, You never give up on us.

You have written us, our very names, on the palm of Your hands, written even me right into You — though we forget, You re-member us, You put us and the broken bits and members of us back together again. We are re-membered in You — You who engrave Your love letter to us right into Your skin…. right into Your beating heart.

In the name of the only One who ever loved us to death and back to life again… In Jesus’ name… Amen.

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Enough, A Thanksgiving Message © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- When You Need a Shepherd (Isaiah 40:11)

shepherd carry sheep

This prayer claims the promises of Isaiah 40:11 on behalf of someone in need. Fill in names, pronouns, and details as best suits the situation.

Isaiah 40:11
He will feed his flock like a shepherd
He will gather the lambs in his arms
and carry them in his bosom
and gently lead the mother sheep

Good, Good Shepherd
Your word is a feast for _______________
Your companionship is the water of life
Nourish her, body and soul

Gather ____________ into your arms
Comfort her
Guard her

Carry __________ through this grueling season
Lift her spirits
Raise her from _____________________

Lead __________, now and always
Guide each step
Make the way smooth
So in all things she may see your faithfulness
So in all things she may testify to your power and hope
Amen

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Prayer- When You Need a Shepherd © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recordings- The Angels’ Song (Luke 2)

why-we-hope-why-we-sing

Message: The Angels’ Song
Scriptures: Luke 2:8-20
Offered 12/11/16, the first Sunday of Advent, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

It was a Roman custom that the birth of a Roman emperor was announced by great poets and orators with declarations of joy, peace, and prosperity. The announcement of the birth of the Savior of of the world, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was announced by heaven itself. First a herald angel, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Then a multitude of the heavenly host, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

It is a Cross-shaped announcement. First out – great joy for all people, a Savior, the Messiah. Then up- the Lord. Then up- glory to God in the highest heaven. Then out- and on earth peace.

The angels don’t visit Mary and Joseph that night. They’ve already had their angel visits and are busy with the birth. They don’t visit the high priest, King Herod, Quirinius, or Emperor Augustus. The powerful already think they are favored.

The angels proclaim the birth of the Savior of the world to shepherds, a group who is definitely not thought of as favored. It’s one of the worst jobs of the ancient world. Shepherds are stereotyped as lazy and dishonest because they often live off land belonging to others and care for flocks belonging to others. They were known as smelly, poor, homeless, uneducated, powerless.

Folks laughed at the idea of a “good shepherd,” an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp. Yet David of Bethlehem was one long before he was king and long before he was promised his throne would never end and long before he was promised the Messiah would be his ancestor.

The babe in the manger will be one, too. Our Jesus, our Good Shepherd, will lay down his life for the sheep.

We’re the sheep. We’re the rag tag shepherds. The message is for them and for us.

“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord….Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

This Good News is for us and all people.

This Good News is to bring us great joy, lasting joy, joy beyond circumstance.

This Good News is that we we have a Savior, so we can stop trying to save ourselves and stop thinking we can’t possibly be saved.

This Good News is that we have a leader and Lord who is trust-worthy and thus worthy to be followed.

This Good News is that God gives us peace in Christ Jesus.

Wait. What? Peace?
The time of Jesus’ birth was a time of occupation and oppression, not peace. Bethlehem was overflowing with Roman military carrying out a mandated migration and registration.

Our age is not a time of peace. School shootings, mass incarceration, cyber attacks, human trafficking, misuse of power, economic insecurity and uncertainty, terrorism, war. Our world is more and more angry, corrupt, and violent. This is the age of Aleppo.

We think of peace
1. as the absence of worry- good health, financially secure, all is well with those I love.
2. as the absence of conflict, injustice, and war

Jesus, the night of the last supper, the night before he gave himself up for us said,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. —John 14.27

Sounds like the Angels’ song. Do not be afraid. You’ve been given a Son, a Savior, The Lord God in the flesh. You’ve been given peace.

Peace isn’t about absence. It’s about presence. We are given the Son, the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord. God is with us. 

Peace in Hebrew is Shalom.  Shalom means fullness; having everything you need to be whole, to be yourself. The Angels’ song is that peace is not the absence of war. Peace is not health, wealth, all is well with those I love. Even if we somehow find it, it doesn’t last, it doesn’t save us, doesn’t make us whole.

Peace not the absence of struggle and suffering, but the presence of God who is Love. God’s presence in us brings fullness and wholeness, the literal meaning of salvation. God’s presence brings the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is love, joy, and peace – the three themes of the Angels’ song. The presence of Jesus is the present of peace.

Peace I Give You by Steve Garnaas Holmes. Imagine Jesus saying this to you…
I give you the quiet peace of this present moment: without hurry, fear or need to be elsewhere, but right here, right now, as you are, at rest.

I give you the strong peace of yourself: the peace of forgiveness and my delight in who you are, with no need to prove yourself or do better.

I give you the vibrant peace of oneness with all living things, the peace of deep belonging, and reconciliation with all people

I give you the life-giving peace of my own spirit, my love, trust and courage beating in your heart, my presence in your soul.

I give you the joyous peace of trust— trust in your life and its goodness, trust in the Beloved and your belovedness

I give you the renewing peace of healing, of blessing hidden even in struggle and pain, of trust that even in suffering all shall be well.

I give not as the world gives, from the outside, but from within, by your being created, and it cannot be taken away. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

Prayer from Prepare the Way by Pamela C. Hawkins
I want to be at peace, O God,
protector of the frightened,
refuge for the wandering.

I want to speak for peace, O Christ,
hope whispered to the bruised,
welcome sung to the embattled.

I want to live in peace, O Spirit,
forgiveness in my heart,
kindness in my hands;
trusting, trustworthy;
loving, beloved.

I want to be at peace, O God
with you,
with me,
with others.
This is my Advent prayer. Amen.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer Station- Letting Go

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Prayer Stations are interactive experiences with Scripture or devotional prompts. A simple, creative gesture can help us slow down and listen for what God reveals. The gesture likewise opens us to respond.

For me, utilizing the sense of touch in prayer takes me to a child-like place. I’m reminded of a less complicated time- a time of wonder, imagination, and play. It gets me out of my head and into my heart. I’m often surprised by the ease and depth of God’s interaction in these encounters.

This prayer station was designed for the opening night of a women’s retreat. The opening night theme was “Let it go.” It could be used in many other settings as well.

I pray this idea encourages you to set aside some time to meet God in interactive prayer. If you choose to use this idea, or better yet create one of your own, I’d love to hear from you. – Lisa <><

Prayer Station Instructions

Mark 6:31
Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

Psalm 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”

Practice…

  • Turn off your phone and leave it in the basket. It will be returned to you at the end of the day.
  • Take off your watch, your Fitbit, or anything else you might carry to measure yourself and measure time. Leave it in the basket. It will be returned to you at the end of the day.
  •  Write
    •  Use the paper and pen to write your to-do list. Write down the things you “should” have done, things you are missing in order to be here, things still to be done
    • Write down the burdens you are carrying
    • Write down your worries, your concerns
    • When finished, fold the paper and write your name on the outside
    • Leave it in the basket as you entrust it to Jesus for the time we are together.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Prayer Station Symbols

  • Blue, patterned tablecloth, small white dove, earthen water jar representing the refreshing living waters of God the Holy Spirit
  • Icon of Jesus offering a blessing known as Christ Pantocrator
  • Wooden statue of Jesus the Good Shepherd carrying a lamb.
    • He will feed His fold like a shepherd; He will gather together His lambs—the weak and the wobbly ones—into His arms. He will carry them close to His bosom, and tenderly lead like a shepherd the mother of her lambs. Isaiah 40:11 The Voice Bible
  • Framed copy of Psalm 23.
    • The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always. He provides me rest in rich, green fields beside streams of refreshing water. He soothes my fears; He makes me whole again, steering me off worn, hard paths to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name. Psalm 23:1-3 The Voice Bible
  • Candle representing the Light of Christ and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit
  • Green plant representing the hope and promise of new life and growth
  • Paper and pens for the writing project
  • Three baskets- one for phones, one for watches and Fitbits, one for the writing project

Click Here for the printout of the instructions for the prayer station